Sarasota Chalk Festival moving to Venice?

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Posted: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 5:29 pm

VENICE, Fla. -- For the past six years the Sarasota Chalk Festival has taken place in Burns Square in Sarasota. Organizers believe it now brings more than 200,000 visitors to the area each year.

And this year it may be moving to Venice.

"We were able to go from just a little event to where we are really the most important international street painting venue in the world," says event founder Denise Kowal.

The festival is touted as bringing more than 500 artists and 200,000 visitors from around the world to the event, all with a financial impact of more than $10 million. So it comes as somewhat of a surprise the event's founder Denise Kowal and her not for profit organization are thinking about moving it south.

"We are speaking with the folks in Venice," she says.

Kowal says she had always envisioned moving the festival around the county.

"We feel being able to move it to a different location gives us an opportunity to explore our creativity differently,” Kowal says. “We don't want to keep things stagnant. We don't want to keep things to where it's always the same."

Organizations like the Venice Circus Arts Foundation, Venice Farmers Market, Venice Art Center, and Venice MainStreet are all pushing for it.

"We are very excited. It's a huge cultural event," says Venice MainStreet director Kat Quast. She believes it would provide the Venice area a huge boost come November.

"You are going to look at art; you are going to go in shops and restaurants,” she says. “You are going to see how great the city is."

Three separate sites could be on tap: The airport, the festival grounds, and the area near the Venice Community Center. A downtown address would be most important.

"The goal is never to put the event just at a fairgrounds, or someplace where you just drive to and then just leave," Kowal says.

The city will have to decide if it's worth closing down streets for the four-day event.

"You have to kind of look and make sure it is viable; the foot traffic will be worth it and the businesses on the street will be okay,” says Quast.

Complaints have been raised in Sarasota about streets being closed, parking, and even how long the art work has been left on the streets. Kowal says if the community event is to be a success in Venice the community will have to show its support.

"We're just really excited about looking at the possibilities," Kowal says.

Planning for the event is still in the very early stages, and the Venice City Council would still have to give approval. There are also some costs for permits, additional law enforcement, etc.

What about the Sarasota business owners? They might not be happy to lose the event, right?

Rumor has it they are working on a new and different art-related event for downtown Sarasota, though they are not ready to reveal it just yet.

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